In her “Mind Your Language” column in The Spectator, Dot Wordsworth turns her attention to jejune. It is one of those words (like fulsome) where an erroneous usage is now so common that the correct, original meaning may be lost entirely. Because of its similarity to juvenile and French jeune, jejune is misused to mean childish, naive, callow. (Dot Wordsworth suggests George Bernard Shaw may be to blame.) This is the (wrong) sense given in the finest use of jejune in cinema history:
What jejune actually means is thin, meagre, unsatisfying. Thank heavens there is at least one man who uses the word correctly. Blockbusting potboilerist Pebblehead has embarked on a new series of gaudy paperback potboilers which purport to be sequels, or prequels, or simply complete rewrites, of acknowledged classics. The first title to appear is Pebblehead’s take on Richard Llewellyn’s 1939 novel How Green Was My Valley. Recalling the privations of his childhood in Pang Hill Orphanage, Pebblehead’s book is entitled How Jejune Was My Gruel. It begins:
How jejune was my gruel. Oh, how jejune it was. I remember so vividly how, when given my bowl of gruel in the orphanage dining hall, I was struck by its jejunosity. Has ever a poor orphan child, who grew up to become an internationally successful bestselling paperbackist, been faced with gruel so jejune? I think not.
A film adaptation of How Jejune Was My Gruel is currently in production, starring anybody the producers can find whose career is not in tatters following allegations of sexual misconduct.
For guaranteed success, the producers of the film adaptation of Pebblehead’s magnum opus need only employ the services of that bastion of British comedy acting, Jejune Whitfield.